He sits in his Lazy-boy recliner reading a book I had lent him before he leaves for his afternoon shift at the Ford plant where he has worked for almost twenty years. I lay on the sofa across the living-room from him, studying him. I think how tired and worn he looks. His face is lined, his thinning hair of a drab grey, and his thin lips are chapped from the harsh Canadian winter winds. Yet his soft, wide eyes are of the most vibrant blue and remain luxuriantly lashed. They appear out of place on his otherwise fatigued face because they remain the eyes of a child – clear and intense – alight with curiosity yet brimming with knowledge.
I know little of this man’s life. He had dreams of which I am unaware and memories I am seldom permitted to share. He is not a particularly complex creature, his aspirations are simple and his principles well-defined.
I have lived with him for the better of twenty years, yet I remain estranged from him. I know I cannot claim to be truly acquainted with his quiet soul. I only know that I dearly love him and am indebted to his staunch ethics, which have given me all I could claim to be and own.
On many occasions I gaze into his big, beautiful, blue eyes – exactly like my own – in the hope of catching a glimpse of his heart. I want to see his innermost dreams, perhaps buried within his heart many years before. I hope to discover for myself what I find difficult to ask him and at times I am able to envision a tearful six-year-old child, clinging to his widowed mother’s hand as the two endure his father’s funeral. The child was destined never to perceive the vocation of fatherhood practised at home, nor to share with his own father the joys and secrets of manhood.
Delving deeper I am able to see a lad of thirteen scoring yet another goal for his football pals. The pride that swelled within his boyish breast fills mine. The dreams he secretly harboured of one day becoming a professional footballer are momentarily mine.
Next I see a fine and fit young man of eighteen serving in Her Majesty’s army. A hesitant, yet exuberant Glasgow boy, enjoying the sensation of the Cyprus sun as it tans his robust frame and usually pale, Scottish flesh. Still but a lad, he clowns with the other fellows one moment and carefully considers his future the next.
At twenty-one, he becomes an orphan when the mother to whom he has been so close, dies. He is alone in the world and unleashed in the work force to forge a life for himself. There is no one or guide him.
I am certain his eyes are as wide and vibrant now as they were when he was a bridegroom at twenty-three, vowing in the Catholic church he once served as an altar boy to forever love the woman he selected as his best friend, his utmost confidante, and the mother of his children. She was to be the half of himself he liked best, and her characteristics enhance his own positive attributes. Without her he is not complete.
Finally, his eyes mirror the joy of a new father. They tell of the apprehension he felt as a twenty-six year-old father of two leaving his homeland for a foreign land of which he knew little. A man without a country for a short time, he soon integrates successfully. He strives to accomplish all that he must, driven by the love he has for his young family, and the pride he feels for his father’s name.
The face before me, old yet forever handsome, conceals the sorrows and disappointments this man – my father, Joseph Griffin – must have experienced throughout his life. An interested adult never backed his dreams. I often think he must be bitter because his older brothers and sisters didn’t take a more constructive interest in his future, yet my father blames only himself for not being ambitious at eighteen or aggressive at twenty. He never speaks harshly of his family or his fate but placidly accepts the cards dealt him. He views them as a rather good hand, winning for him health, prosperity, faith and peace. He is content to grow old in his adopted country of Canada and cherish his boyhood dreams without bitterly regretting any choices he made. He traded his fantasies for the reality of being a loving husband and a generous father, working to provide his three daughters with the opportunities that were never granted him. He remains thoughtful without being wistful and appreciative without being covetous.
Realizing he is being watched, my father turns to me with a loving grin. He makes a crack and we laugh together, his entire face breaking into a smile and his blue eyes dancing a lively waltz. He no longer looks old to me. All at once he is a lad playing football, a nervous bridegroom, and an expectant father experiencing life’s most precious moments, reflecting the joy of each situation through the two blue mirrors which grace his still beautiful face.